Offset by Shutterstock is a hand-picked collection of extraordinary, engaging imagery from top artists and storytellers around the world.

Even though much of the world is still blanketed in cold, wedding season is just around the corner — as evidenced by the kickoff of the WPPI conference for wedding and portrait photography in Las Vegas this week.

Today’s wedding photography is all about unstaged poses that defy convention, tiny details that personalize the day, and authentic imagery with an emphasis on journalism and fine art that’s fit for a magazine editorial or the walls of a gallery. We talked to five Offset contributors who shoot weddings to find out what it takes to be a great contemporary wedding photographer.

Liz Sloan (L Photographie)
Region: St. Louis, Missouri
Featured in: More than 25 publications, including Saint Louis Bride Magazine

Favorite thing about the job: “Wedding photography is a land of extreme emotions, both positive and negative. My favorite part is the tremendous joy and gratitude I get from so many of my couples when they see their photos. There are few jobs in the world where every time you complete a project, you get that kind of emotional reward. And it keeps me going.”

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Trends: “I think that the main trend I see is that so many wedding ‘traditions’ couples used to feel like they had to do are now considered a choice. They no longer must cut a cake or even have one. Now they can have rhubarb pies or adorable mini crème brulees with hearts burnt in sugar. First looks are more common than non-first looks (bad luck wives tale be gone!). Receiving lines are now a rare sighting, having gone the way of the bouquet and garter toss. Basically the rules have been thrown out the window and the sky is the limit! And it’s fun to see where our couples take this newfound freedom.”

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“I think less people feel they must follow the rustic/vintage trend; Pinterest has become a bit less of a novelty. Which is nice because I love to see my clients have their own, personal, unique weddings instead of recreating someone else’s.

“Also, animals in weddings! I’ve had many more dogs at both weddings and engagement sessions in the last couple of years and it makes me smile. I mean, after all, they are family members too.”

Favorite moment for a shot: “One of my favorite parts of the day is always the toasts. I get to do what I love most — be invisible. I hang back, watch, listen, and click as I get a personal glimpse into memories and special relationships. It always fills me with warm and fuzzy feelings and makes all of the long days away from my friends and family worth it.

“I also get really excited when I experiment with a new idea or technique and it works. Nothing is worse than the creative rut. As artists, we always have to keep pushing ourselves to try new things and the successes keep us going and wanting more.”

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Esther Sun
Region:
 California and all over the East Coast
Weddings per year: 30 (on average)
Featured in: Green Wedding Shoes, Style Me Pretty, Ruffled, Brides.

Favorite thing about wedding photography: “It borrows from several photographic genres, including photojournalism and portraiture.”

Trends: “Fine art and editorial approaches to wedding photography. My clients are requesting a more natural approach; they don’t want to take photos of predefined ‘traditional poses.'”

Magic moment: “When the couple sees each other as they walk down the aisle at the ceremony. It’s a very special moment that showcases genuine emotions not just from the bride and groom, but also from the family and friends.”

Favorite thing about the job: “I love the experience of capturing moments in time within still images. People age and memories fade, but what you caught on film is captured forever. Photos aren’t just images. They’re a catalyst with which to capture the scent of life. I also love traveling to meet incredible people on one of the happiest days of their lives.”

Inspiration: “People and Life. Life is about learning, nurturing, struggling, growing, and reflecting. I see great beauty in that, and I love the experiences found along the way. I want to interact and engage with the world and people around me. To me, photography is the medium that I have accepted to express myself, and it has enabled me to do so through the people I photograph.”
Levi Ely
Region:
 Based in Columbus, Ohio, but he and his wife, Val, shoot throughout the country and in places like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Wales
Weddings per year: 30-35
Featured in: Junebug Weddings, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes

On getting into the business: “Early on, I didn’t plan on shooting weddings. After shooting a few out of necessity to make money, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. Flash forward a couple of years later, and I ended up phasing out all the other types of photography, and was left with commercial/editorial and wedding photography. If you get the right clients, shooting weddings is a blast. It’s basically a daylong party, with friends and family.”

Trends: “‘Photojournalistic’ is the word most used today to describe wedding photographers; shooting events as they unfold without interference. Sometimes clients know what this means; others only partially understand. The best photos I’ve ever taken at a wedding are where timetables are loose and there aren’t a lot of planned events throughout the day, allowing the day to breathe; allowing people to relax and have fun, knowing they aren’t in a rush. I become a fly on the wall, and I’m able to shoot, and people are able to ignore the fact that I’m there.

“The wedding industry is changing, in that people don’t feel like they need to get married where they live. People want to get married in places that they love; places with amazing landscapes; places that make them feel alive.”

Best part of the job: “I love that I can work from home and take a day off, or a week off, if I want. Being married and having three kids, things come up all the time, and my schedule needs to be flexible. I have that flexibility, and it would be extremely difficult to give that up. My favorite part about shooting is when we become friends with our clients. We have couples who we remain friends with way past the wedding, and that is just about the coolest thing!”
Adrian Hancu
Region:
 Lives in France, shoots throughout Europe and also Africa and Asia
Weddings per year: Capped at 25 to maintain time for commercial, editorial, and personal projects
Accolades: Award-winning member of the Artistic Guild of the Wedding Photojournalist Association

Trends: “Locations tend to be more unusual and wilder, from factory warehouses to museums. Certain couples want their guests not only to assist at their wedding, but to have an unforgettable experience. DIY is in, too: 90% of my clients last year chose to do the decorations themselves (or with the help of close friends), as well as the invites (including other paper work with amazing calligraphy), and flowers. Pantone color of the year: five couples chose Radiant Orchid as a dominant color for their wedding; three brides even had dresses of this color. Short wedding dresses and more grooms wearing a mustache or a beard is noticeable, and photographic film has become very popular, at least in Central Europe.”

Best moments in a wedding: “I see, feel, and live with and next to the couple during each part of their wedding. I cherish in particular the moment when the bride walks with her father down the aisle, and the moment when the couple exchanges vows, bathed in laughter and tears. I love confetti for its spontaneity and always surprising results. I patiently wait for the couple’s first dance for its intimacy and fun and for the bride’s dance with her father for the happiness mixed with some sort of sadness in their eyes. The pièce de resistance is nevertheless the private moments of emotion, tranquility, or hurry, because they tell stories and recount precious memories.”

Favorite part of the job: “I love to compare my job as a photographer (be it wedding or commercial) with a rainbow in the sky. The feelings I get from my work are just as colorful. The beauty of people I meet is just as omnipresent as the beauty of light in every drop of water.”

Inspiration: “I have always been attracted to light, colors, shapes, and forms of surrounding objects. Also, I love people and places with unusual emotional dynamics. And of course my family and the harmony that floats inside is a source of inestimable inspiration and zen.”
Sara Wight
Region: New York Tri-State area, but also Dominican Republic, St. John, and Scotland
Weddings per year: 30
Featured in: The Knot, Style Me Pretty, New York Magazine WeddingsInStyle

On getting into wedding photography: “Having attended art school, there was always a stigma around wedding photography as being very formulaic and cliche. However, when my friends started getting married and I saw the creative and inspiring work that was being produced, I realized the industry had very much changed. Wedding photography is an incredibly rewarding and artistic pursuit.”

Trends: “I think trends in the wedding market are similar to the trends in the overall photography industry. People are looking for those genuine authentic moments that really tell a story. They want to look like the best version of themselves in a natural and unposed way.

“Brides spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and this has definitely shaped their vision for their own wedding. Brides want to find ways to make their wedding unique and personal, so they tend to incorporate more personal details and pay particular attention to the way the details are photographed. They want to remember all of the hard work and thought behind their wedding decor.”

Favorite type of wedding: “My background is in fine art photography and my personal work focuses on landscapes, so I especially love weddings that incorporate dramatic, beautiful landscapes.”

Favorite part about the job: “I love the relationships that I build with my clients and the trust they have in me to deliver beautiful photos of their wedding day. I don’t take this responsibility lightly.”

Inspiration: “Unbridled emotion, beautiful light, love, and the natural world.”

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